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'Large heart' ache for CM

Ranchi, April 2: Nitish Kumar, the Janata Dal (United) leader, has discovered that the Jharkhand chief minister has a large heart.

Contacted in New Delhi on Saturday, Kumar said that although his party would have been content with two ministerial berths in the state, Arjun Munda's 'large heart' and political skills of Inder Singh Namdhari have ensured that the party gets a third berth in the cabinet.

It was the chief minister's prerogative and 'generosity' that led to the inclusion of adhakrishna Kishore in the ministry, he said and hoped that Arjun Munda will abide by the 'coalition dharma' and induct Dal (U)'s other nominee, Jaleshwar Mahto.

Kumar's loaded statement spells further trouble for the beleaguered chief minister who, it was widely believed, had pledged the last slot in the cabinet, kept vacant so far, to the BJP or to one of the potential defectors from the UPA like Joba Manjhi.

While the state can have only 12 ministers, 11 have been sworn in so far. The BJP, which has two ministers in the cabinet besides the chief minister, hoped to get at least four of the 12 berths by virtue of being the major partner of the NDA alliance in the state. It has 30 MLAs in the Assembly as opposed to only six of Dal (U).

The pitch was, however, queered when the chief minister ignored the recommendation of Dal (U) leaders to induct Ramesh Singh Munda and Jaleshwar Mahto in the cabinet. While the former was included, the chief minister preferred to include Radhakrishna Kishore in place of the latter.

This prompted a virtual rebellion with Mahto's supporters disrupting the oath-taking ceremony at the Raj Bhavan and Ramesh Singh Munda taking oath but refusing to take charge.

Jaleshwar Mahto, Nitish said, has convened a meeting in Ranchi on Monday to discuss the situation and also to elect the new legislature party leader as well. Soon afterwards, he hoped, the chief minister would oblige by inducting Mahto into the ministry.

Kishore being a Dalit, Dal (U) leaders argued, it was not possible to contemplate his removal from the cabinet. At the same time Jaleshwar Mahto happens to be the party's nominee and an important Kurmi leader. It is equally important, therefore, for Dal (U) to ensure that Mahto therefore gets a cabinet berth, they said.

Inder Singh Namdhari, the former Dal (U) chief and now the Speaker, however, denied that he had planned to have a third minister for the Dal (U). The government, he suggested, can 'honour' Mahto by making him the chairman of a board with cabinet rank.

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